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How does hate speech make me feel?

Media Analysis

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Remind participants of the use of meta-moments to identify changes in their emotional state and employ self-regulation strategies to manage their emotional state. The use of meta-moments is a very effective way of managing emotionally charged scenarios where impulsive decisions can make a problem worse rather than better.

Taking time to recognise our own emotional state and employ an appropriate strategy to regulate our feelings and behaviour is an important skill for many different situations and contexts. One area that may seek to trigger an emotional state is the use of media; to provoke a response or action. This section explores how use of media can provoke different emotional responses in ourselves and others, how we might regulate our emotional state, and what action we might take to counter prejudiced/hateful content.

Prompt Questions

These questions are provided as examples to initiate and guide discussions around the topic in this focus area.

  • Why do we take/share/use images on social media and in mass media such as news, magazines and advertising? (e.g. to spread a message, to get an audience’s attention, to inform, to promote discussion/action, to evoke an emotional response, etc.)
  • What examples of images in mass media/social media can you think of that evoked a strong emotion? Which emotion(s) were they and why did you feel that way?
  • What examples have you seen of prejudiced/hateful images?
  • Have you ever seen examples where an image has been edited/manipulated to spread a negative message? Why do you think someone did this?
  • What examples have you seen of an image being misunderstood? How did people react and how was the misunderstanding resolved?

Main Activity

The SELMA project short definition of hate speech is:

“Any online content targeting someone based on protected characteristics with the intent or likely effect of inciting, spreading or promoting hatred or other forms of discrimination.”

Thinking outside the frame

Using the slides provided, explain to participants that images can evoke different feelings depending on what we think they portray. Images can also be misunderstood or misrepresentational (either deliberately or accidentally) and this can affect an audience’s feelings and actions.

Use the first example to highlight this; show pictures 1-3 in turn (which progressively zoom out to show the whole image) and ask participants at each stage to explain what might be going on in the image, and how that makes them feel. Did their feelings change at all between images 1-3? If so, why?

(Note: The photo depicts Santa Fe high school learners leading a moment of silence at an NBA basketball game in remembrance of fellow learners and teachers killed in a shooting at their school in 2018. The image caused argument and outrage when posted on Twitter for a number of reasons:

  1. Some people accused the black girl of being disrespectful by not bowing her head or holding the hand of the girl next to her.
  2. Some people accused the white girls holding hands of being racist as they were not holding the black girl’s hand.)

Some participants may mention/comment on the picture with regards to disrespect/racism. Image 4 shows a different photo taken of the same scene which dispels the above accusations; it shows more learners (also not holding hands or looking down) and highlights that the previous photo (inadvertently) placed attention on the black learner as “being different” in the photo. (Both the black learner and the other learners also publicly stated in interviews and on social media that nothing racist or disrespectful took place). Ask participants to explain how they feel after seeing image 4 and after hearing the explanation behind the photo.

The following examples on the slides are all around the topic of immigration and are also open to interpretation. Each has three images. Repeat the process, taking participants through each of the three images and questioning their thoughts and feelings at each stage.


How do you feel?

Using the supporting slides, explain to participants that a number of online users have also seen the photos they have just seen and have responded with a number of comments. Some comments are positive, some are clearly negative, and others are open to interpretation and a range of emotional responses.

Their task is to take each comment and consider how it makes them feel (they may wish to record these emotions on the mood meter grid). They also need to consider any strategies required for regulating their emotional state, and what action they might take as a result of this comment. This may include:

  • Writing a supporting comment.
  • Presenting a counter narrative.
  • Sharing the comment with others.
  • Taking steps to minimise the impact of the comment (e.g. report the user/comment/thread, block the user).
  • Other action.

Encourage participants to share their feelings and ideas; are there any common shared emotions across the group towards certain comments/themes? Are there any common shared approaches to positive/negative online content?

Record any common ideas/approaches for future use; they can be useful in informing the “call to action” for the Citizenship section of this theme.

Outcome Criteria

  • Explain how the presentation of content can affect emotion.
  • Understand how hateful online comments may evoke different emotions and require us to regulate our emotional state.


Explain how the presentation of content can affect emotion Understand how hateful online comments may evoke different emotions and require us to regulate our emotional state.


Thinking outside the frame

Exploring how media is presented can shape meaning and emotional response.


How do you feel?

Analysing different comments and emotional responses to media.